Friday, December 19, 2014

Pennsylvania State University - Pregame

On its face, the 10-1 Penn State Nittany Lions playing against the reeling 2-6 Drexel Dragons on a neutral court looks like a bloodbath.  Scratch the surface a little deeper though, and some interesting items come up.  For one, PSU is 10-1 while playing only 1 team in the top 125 in the country (KenPom).  On DU's side of the ledger, 5 of their 6 losses came against teams in the top 125.  Factor in that PSU is an undersized, jump shot team playing in a brand new half empty building with a background that they haven't seen before and coming off of their best win of the season, and the scales even out a little bit.

There is one and only one title fight in this matchup, the major battle in this war and it features Philly's own (Strawberry Mansion HS) DJ Newbill facing off against Damion Lee on the wing.  Both of these guys take over 30% of their teams shots when they are on the court, and can beat you with in the gym range or take their defender off the bounce and get to the stripe.  This should be an absolute treat to watch and I want to encourage everyone to keep an eye on them, even during the few times when they are off the ball.

Offensively for the Dragons, there's two ways this game can go.  They can settle like they have so often and make it an Allen and London jumpshot affair, or they can take 10 of those possessions and go to the rack like they did against Buffalo and make it a Lee, London and Williams pick and roll game.  For all of the flack (much of it rightly deserved) that Bru has given Rodney early in this season, Rodney continues to have the best hands that a Drexel forward has had since at least Samme Givens, if not before.  He's ready for passes and he does good things with them, especially when defenders are helping off of him as they are prone to do since the guards so rarely execute the pass.  Against a smaller team like PSU, jumpshots are simply the lazy way out, but if you see those three guys get to the paint and to the line, you will likely also see a competitive game.

On the defensive side lies the problem.  PSU is pretty good at getting to the rim themselves, and all five guys on the floor have range out to the three point stripe.  While the Drexel team forwards are more athletic this year than years past, coverage out to the arc still isn't great and 6'6" junior Brandon Taylor will be a headache for the Dragon bigs.  While the PSU guard core (not named Newbill) has struggled from distance this year, they love to push into the paint and get to the line, so once again the Dragon frontcourt depth will be tested.  Look out for the dreaded 4 guard lineup, as thats become akin to Bruiser waiving the white flag.

Before looking into this matchup as well as reading Alan Boston's thoughts (below) I thought this game was going to be well into blowout city.  Looking deeper, I may have been giving PSU a bit more credit than they deserved.  If DU makes it a jumpshot game it will get out of hand, but if they get to the basket, look for it to be competitive and for Drexel to have a shot late.

Prediction:  PSU 62 - Drexel 54
Vegas Line:  PSU -6.5

Alan Boston's Notes:  Allentown?? I shall skip the 42nd street reference, at least for now.
Penn st played easily their most impressive game of the year in routing a very good George Washington team last Sunday, 64-51. Prior to that game had been a mixed bag. This is Pat Chambers (former Jay Wright asst) 4th year, so these are all his players. This school has always been a tough sell in basketball. Ed Dechellis did about as well as any. Finally, he gave up to take on an impossible task of making Navy relevant. Don Devoe only comes along once in a lifetime. So Penn st remains a lower tier big ten team and likely will stay that way in our lifetimes. Chambers is a very good recruiter. The talent has been slightly upgraded, but they are what they are. A good Drexel team would be a small favorite on a neutral court. Sadly, this is not a good Drexel team. I do not watch them enough to tell you why. This team is underachieving. They showed some fight in losing to a good Buffalo bunch. If Penn st comes in a little flat off of their home run effort, an upset is not impossible. Unfortunately, you just know that if it is close down the stretch, Drexel will not get there. Penn St by 2

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